I haven’t done a lot of blogging this year, but, don’t worry, I’ve still been watching a ton of movies! I’ve even been keeping track of everything I’ve watched or read in a pair of Composition Note Books that I’ve (not so) cleverly dubbed Pop Notes. Thanks to them, I’m pretty confident looking back at the year and piecing together thoughts on some of my fave film-watching experiences (minus horror, which will get a list or two of their own). This one’s pretty long, so hit that jump and get into it!Continue reading My Favorite Film Experiences Of 2018
When it comes to straight-ahead likeable action stars, few have done it better than Jackie Chan. He built up an incredible body of work before breaking through in the U.S. which meant that, for many of us, we could start off with something like Rumble In The Bronx and then go on to discover the Armor of God or Police Story movies. He’s even carried his unique brand of humor and still-impressive action into more recent films like the incredible Chinese Zodiac. However, thanks to a review Blu-ray of The Foreigner, I now see him in a very different light.
I thought about calling this post “We Want Old Man Action’ but thought it might get a lot of the wrong kinds of hits. Well, now that I’ve typed that I guess I’ll get them anyway! But, I’ve got to say, I was very impressed with both Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac which are anchored by stars the 67-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-58-year-old Jackie Chan respectively.
I don’t remember hearing much in the way of good reviews about David Ayer’s Sabotage. After having seen the film, I have a feeling that people didn’t show up because they didn’t want to watch “a Schwarzenegger film.” It’s too bad for them because, this is a tight, sometimes sinister thriller about a squad of DEA agents who tried to steal a ton of drug money, failed and start getting murdered one by one.
Plot-wise, this sounds like the kind of 80s or 90s action movies that don’t live up to the emotional heaviness inherent in their plots, but that’s not the case here. Schwarzenegger’s squad includes Sam Worthington, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Mireille Enos, Max Martini, Kevin Vance and Mark Schlegel all of who balance the reckless after-hours antics of these agents with the ridiculously serious and proficient way they go about their actual jobs. They each bring different levels of intensity to their characters that, when combined with a breakneck pace, intense moments of violence and cops played by Olivia Williams and Harold Perrineau, make for an incredibly engaging and intriguing film.
Much like with The Last Stand and even Escape Plan to a lesser extent, I thought Schwarzenegger did a great job of being in a film that doesn’t so much rely on him running around and getting into fist fights or blowing people away, but instead lets him do some actual acting work (while also firing the occasional weapon, of course). If that last sentence sounds like crazy-talk to you, just look at Ayer’s other films like End Of Watch, Fury and Training Day and ask if you think he’d make a silly action film.
If you are looking for something a little bit more silly and fun, then I highly recommend Chinese Zodiac which Jackie Chan starred in and also directed. I’ve read that the movie takes some cues from Chan’s earlier films Armour Of God and Operation Condor (or Armour Of God 2: Operation Condor as it’s also known), but I still haven’t seen those all the way through and I didn’t feel like I was missing anything not being familiar with them.
In the movie, Chan plays a master thief who, along with his crew, agrees to steal back a series of Zodiac statue heads that were pillaged from China about 150 years ago. This job sends them all over the world from locales as diverse as a huge mansion to a large boat in the middle of a jungle protected by pirates.
I love the adventure aspects of this movie that felt like they borrowed well from the Indiana Jones films. I also really enjoyed the action elements. Chan handles a lot of them on his own, but his crew also proves to be more than capable fighters and entertainers at the same time. I was a little worried that he might look stiff or that he might use a fill in like Chuck Norris did in the awful The Cutter. Instead, he’s as spry as I remember him which is nice because the last newer Chan movie I watched, Gorgeous, was a big disappointment.
I’m happy to say that Chinese Zodiac reminded me of Chan’s action-comedy masterpiece Police Story and it’s follow-up. In addition to being a fun action movie, it also has an interesting message about the complexity of the world’s relationship with ancient artifacts, especially ones that were removed from one place where they were revered and taken to another place where they became equally important.
While Sabotage and Chinese Zodiac are very different movies, I liked them both very much both because they’re good in and of themselves, but they also show that these two action stars can still do their thing. To paraphrase Stan Lee in Mallrats, if they keep making these movies, I’ll keep watching them true believers!
First and foremost, if you’re a fan of Joss Whedon’s Buffy: The Vampire Slayer or Angel and don’t already have all the seasons on DVD, Amazon’s Gold Box Deal today finds both complete sets on sale for $60 and $55 respectively.
The biggest action release of the week also happens to be a zombie flick. The Brad Pitt global undead thriller World War Z hits home video today in a variety of formats.
We here at Explosions Are Rad are big fans of The CW’s Arrow. If you missed out on the first season you can catch up now thanks to Arrow: The Complete First Season before the second season kicks off on October 9th.
Bruce Lee fans might want to check out Bruce Lee – A Warrior’s Journey/Pursuit Of The Dragon. Journey features previously lost footage from Lee’s last film The Game Of Death while Pursuit “follows the chronology” of The Big Boss, Fists Of Fury, The Way Of The Dragon and Enter The Dragon.
Another interesting martial arts double feature released today comes from Shout Factory and Timeless Media: Jackie Chan: Beginnings – Snake & Crane Arts of Shaolin / Magnificent Bodyguards. This double feature collects two of the six films he made in 1978 alone!
*Friday Night Fights presents crazy fight and battle scenes from movies with little-to-no context. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll probably want to skip the clip. *
An epic 8 minute fight between Jackie Chan and Ken Lo in the 1994 movie The Legend Of Drunken Master (a.k.a. Drunken Master II, Jui kuen II and Drunken Fist II). What more do you need to know? Just watch the awesomeness.
We here at Explosions Are Rad are big fans of the mash-up action-fests better known as The Expendables movies. The brainchild of Sylvester Stallone, the films bring together some of the best and brightest action stars of all time together offering explosions, fight scenes and gunplay worth the price of admission alone.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, you really need to follow Stallone on Twitter (he’s @TheSlyStallone). The legendary action star took to social media today to not only announce that Bruce Willis won’t return for The Expendables 3, but also that he’ll be replaced by Harrison Ford. “WILLIS OUT… HARRISON FORD IN !!!! GREAT NEWS !!!!! Been waiting years for this!!!!”
He followed that up with what seems like a slam against Willis who appeared as Mr. Church in the first two Expendables movies. “GREEDY AND LAZY …… A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE”
Willis’ Mr. Church played an important role in both films. In the first, he hired the team to invade Valena and in the second he uses their failure in the first movie as leverage to send them out to get a device that winds up putting them in direct opposition to Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Vilain. He even got in on the action alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in the second film. Will Ford do the same in 3? We sure hope so.
Last month, Stallone also said via Twitter that the new film, directed by Red Hill‘s Patrick Hughes, will feature real life fighters Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz as well. Hopefully, they fall into Randy Couture territory and turn out to be super watchable on screen. The film is also said to star Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Nicolas Cage, Mickey Rourke, Jackie Chan, Kellan Lutz, Milla Jovovich, Wesley Snipes and many more.
Like a lot of people my age, I was introduced to Jackie Chan in the 90s when he was just breaking through in the States with flicks like Rumble In The Bronx. Some people knew him before that from imported action flicks, though I was not worldly enough to be one of them. I have since gone back and tried to watch as many of his earlier films as possible. Drunken Master really wowed me, but I’ve also become a fan of the first two Police Story films which did a really great job of mixing comedy and action, something Chan was and still is famous for.
In this flick, Jackie plays a cop named Jackie (at least in the English dub, which is how I watched the movie). He’s part of a team sent out to take down a mob boss and his goons, but as you might expect, things don’t go in his favor. The initial mission gets botched, people get away, witness need protecting, a trial happens and everything ends with a big crazy action sequence in a mall at the very end.
While the film is firmly in the action/comedy genre, I’d say it leans more towards action. Jackie gets pushed to the edge (after having some funnier moments with the lady witness he’s supposed to be protecting) and he really goes a little crazy, going so far as to kidnap the police chief and punch a man with glasses! Unlike some of his more recent films, though, you really get the sense that this Jackie could do something really dangerous or stupid and get himself in some serious trouble.
Which is interesting because the real Jackie Chan got into some real trouble during this film and almost died. That big mall scene I mentioned has a part where he slides down a big metal pole with Christmas lights around it. They had a higher wattage going through them than they should and his hands got burned on the way down. As if that wasn’t enough he stopped breathing after a stunt where he flipped through glass. Obviously, he wound up being okay, but that’s an element of these movies that I really do like: they look and feel dangerous. I don’t want to see real people get hurt, but if real people get hurt on purpose while getting paid to make a movie and it looks cool, I guess that’s not so bad. Talk about a moral loophole.
The best part about the movie, though, is that it doesn’t feel like action porn, like you’re just killing time until the next action setpiece. Chan is super charming and funny and fun to watch, he’s got good co-stars to work with and, oh yeah, the action scenes are bad ass. The opening scene was swiped pretty heavily in Bad Boys II and features a huge gun battle followed very closely by several cars literally driving though a shanty town on the side of the hill. It’s insane and awesome. That’s followed by several different fight scenes, but my personal favorite is the most obvious: the end one in the mall. Malls are such weird places anyway, you put any kind of genre movie in that setting and I’m sold.
So, if you think that Jackie Chan only makes goofy kid movies or co-stars with Chris Tucker, do yourself a favor and check out Police Story, Police Story 2 (which I’ll be watching next week) and Drunken Master (which I really need to review on here). They are fantastic and really show how great an action comedy can be without sacrificing elements of either genre.
Who doesn’t love a good fight scene? Not me that’s who. The problem I have is sitting through 90-120 minutes of a pretty boring or unengaging movie to get there. Well, if that’s not a leading intro to me talking about a couple of movies, I don’t know what is!
I’ve watched two action movies in the past couple of weeks that gave me varying levels of action satisfaction. First up, I watched Gorgeous (1999) which is actually a pretty perplexing movie. I went in knowing nothing more than that Jackie Chan was starring. I love me some Chan-man, so I was all psyched for his usual combination of funny and dazzling martial arts. Well, I was very disappointed. The story, as best I can tell is about this girl who leaves her home to meet a guy who threw out a message in a bottle. Turns out the guy is gay and she ends up falling for Jackie’s character. There’s also bad guys, but I’m not exactly sure why they’re bad. Seriously, I watched the whole movie and that’s all I can remember a few days later.
My first tip off that I wouldn’t like this movie is that they didn’t get Jackie to do his own dubbing. That’s CRAZY! The dude is super famous, everyone knows what he sounds like AND he speaks English. Get him to do his own voice!
Aside from that, it’s pretty light on the action. There’s a pretty good fight on a boat and then Jackie fights some dude. Then he fights him again later. Sorry for the lame review, but this is all I can remember. It’s really more of a love story than anything. No thanks. I’d rather watch Rumble in the Bronx, Police Story 2 (my favorite action comedy of all time) or Drunken Master.
There was one saving grace though, this fight between Jackie and the guy he fought twice. I don’t remember what the set up was, but it seems like just two dudes sparring. The fight it FAST though. I actually had to pay attention to keep track of what was going on. I’m sure the YouTube clip won’t do it justice, so I recommend adding it to your Netflix Instant Queue and fastforwarding to the last 20 minutes or so. You can probably skip the rest of the movie.
The other flick I watched was called Double Team (1997) and starred Jean-Claude Van Damme, Dennis Rodman and Mickey Rourke and I liked it MUCH better than Gorgeous. I never thought I’d say that I like a JCVD and Rodman joint more than a Jackie Chan movie, but there you go.
First off, I enjoyed the crazy high concept of the movie. JCVD plays a spy who’s going after Rourke. In the process he gets hurt and this secret society of spies comes in and bring shim to an island where they help keep the world safe (or something). As far as the outside world is concerned they’re all dead and they can’t leave the island because it’s got lazers and bombs and whatnot all over the place. No surprise here, but JCVD breaks out after finding out that Rourke, who knows about the secret spies (I think he was one of them) sends JCVD a message that he has our hero’s wife.
So, yeah, the movie is incredibly over the top, but it’s also a lot of fun. They also, wisely, didn’t try and shoehorn Rodman into the whole movie, just scenes at the beginning and then everything after JCVD breaks out (he’s a weapons dealer). Rodman’s character is fun and out there and it would have been even better if an actor played him. Rodman does a good job, but he’s still got that stiff sports guy thing going on you usually only see on episodes of SNL after a major sporting event.
But really, what the movie comes down to is the final scene. And boy is it crazy. Just when I think I’ve seen everything a movie shows me Mickey Rourke sending a tiger after JCVD in the middle of a sand covered, mine-infested coliseum. Meanwhile, Rodman rolls in on a dirt bike. Just in case you missed that, JCVD fought a TIGER. And it had to be real because back then they didn’t have CGI (don’t check my math, just go with it). That last 10 minutes is pure crazy awesomeness. Here’s a clip of it, but I highly recommend watching this whole movie, it’s also available on Netflix Instant Watch (man, they should pay me for all the name dropping).
Hey gang, sorry again about my complete lack of posts lately, things have been crazy. I have been keeping myself busy with movies though, so here are 13 short reviews about some flicks I’ve seen lately, plus one movie I didn’t watch.
SIX STRING SAMURAI (1998)
I really liked this post apocalyptic-like road trip movie with a samurai Buddy Holly. The howler-monkey kid got annoying fast, but the action and snappy dialogue kept things moving along at quite a clip. Much better than I thought it would be.
OUR MAN FLINT (1966)
Flint’s a swinging secret agent int he 60s more worried about having a good time than stopping an international incident (at first at least). Great, campy 60s spy fun, that both pokes fun at but also sets itself up in the same universe as James Bond. A lot of fun, can’t wait to check out the sequel.
THE MAJORETTES (1986)
I don’t actually remember too much about this movie other than it involved some maniac hunting down and killing high school cheerleaders. It’s a way lower budget movie and apparently very little of the money went to snag actors who can, you know, act. Skip this one unless you’re a horror completist or you’re looking to cross another movie off in your copy of Creature Feature (like me).
DAY OF THE DEAD (2008)
I was actually pretty impressed with this remake-in-name-mostly of Romero’s Day of the Dead. I’m not a huge fan of the original or anything, but I wasn’t expecting much out of this flick and was surprised. The story moves along the same speeds as the fast Zack Snyder/28 Days Later-like zombies, but my favorite part is seeing actual people I recognize like Mena Suvari, Nick Cannon and Ving Rhames killing and becoming zombies. When was the last time you saw a non genre actor semi-famous person in a horror movie after they became famous? Hopefully it’s a trend that will continue. I’m actually kind of surprised that they didn’t release this movie in theaters. Oh well, a pretty good zombie movie all said and done, though not a classic.
THE SHADOW (1994)
In my opinion, it’s hard to go wrong when you populate a movie about a pulp hero with actors like Alec Baldwin, Peter Boyle, Tim Curry, Ian McKellen, James Hong and Jonathan Winters and luckily The Shadow held up my opinions. I’m not all that familiar with pulp heroes, especially the Shadow, but I like the idea of him having a network of people all over the city (usually people he has saved) who help him out. There’s all kinds of cool stuff like secret labs and ancient forces of good and evil. Oh and for 30 Rock fans, I highly encourage you to think of these as the early days of Jack Donaghy.
LAST MAN STANDING (1996)
A pretty cool story about a gangster-era hitman (Willis) holing up in a ghost town populated by two rival gangs, gets slowed down with a little too much back and forth back stabbing. I definitely don’t remember all the details about this one, but I’m a Willis fan. Michael Imperioli plays pretty much the same role he always does and Walken stars as Willis’ main competition and they fight which is cool. Can you imagine Walken fighting now? Aside from a dance fight I mean. Oh, also Walter Hill of Warriors fame directed LMS, so it’s gotta be pretty good, right?
FOXY BROWN (1974)
So far my experience with blaxploitation films as been hit or miss, but luckily Foxy is enough of a hit. In the plus column, Pam Grier cuts quite the figure, plus she kicks ass. I also like the idea of a group of inner city dwellers taking the law into their own hands and creating their own kind of police force. I’m not a big fan of the sexual assault stuff, but I guess that’s all part of the exploitation riff. Too bad Foxy and Shaft never got together. That would have been a great flick.
I’m not sure if I’ve professed my heterosexual man love for George Clooney on the blog before, but I’m a big fan. I think we’d get along smashingly. I do know that I’ve talked about how much I like the American Office, so you probably know I’m a John Krasinski fan. So, Leatherheads was a good flick in my book. It doesn’t make my top 10 sports movies of all time (well, maybe, I’d have to come up with that list actually), but it’s fun and it offered up a look at a period in professional football that I am completely unfamiliar with, so that was cool. Of course, it’s a comedy, so I’m not sure how accurate it was, but who cares? Like I said it was fun. Has similar story elements to League of the their Own (which probably would make my top 10 because I’m a huge softy). Not groundbreaking by any means, but worth a watch.
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2008)
I liked Leatherheads more than Journey, but it’s not a terrible movie (even if it is very predictable). The special effects bounce back and forth between boderline okay, pretty good and not so great, but the effort is there. I really wish I would have been able to see this bad boy in 3D. I missed out on the phenomenon in the 80s and have gotten a taste for it by watching Superman Returns (ugh) and Nightmare Before Christmas in lame separate the background from the foreground 3D. I can’t freaking wait to see My Bloody Valentine 3D!!!
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)
Holy crap I loved this movie. Rickey got me a subscription to a horror movie mag called Horror Hound that’s not expertly edited, but still offers up tons and tons of horror goodness. One such bit of goodness was a whole feature on Klowns. The movie is just so much freaking over the bigtop fun. I really can’t believe that a studio made this movie. Please, do yourself a favor and check it out. Also of interest on the DVD is the Chiodo brothers’ home movies from when they were making monster movies as kids. Pretty impressive stuff for pre-teens with a 16mm camera.
VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003)
The combination of Hong Kong action and vampires drew me to this flick pretty quickly on Netflix. Heck, it’s even got Jackie Chan in a roll that’s more than him just walking on and being called Jackie (which he is). As with a lot of movies like this that I’ve seen, the special effects and fight scenes are sick, but the story itself is nothing new. I did really like the cool retractable whip/sword weapons they used. I think I designed something very similar what I was younger.
LICENSE TO DRIVE (1988)
If you thought Corey Haim could have been a little bit smoother, though still pretty spazzy in Lost Boys and Corey Fledman from the Burbs could use a little mellowing out, then License to Drive is the perfect 2 Coreys vehicle for you (puns!). Haim fails his driving test, but still tells a young (though still 18 by my math) Heather Graham that he can pick her up. It’s basically like an episode of a sitcom, but stretched to 90 minutes and definitely edgier than your average Saved By The Bell. Good stuff. Next up from the Coreys? Dream a Little Dream (which I have absolutely no knowledge of).
Legend is one of those movies that I don’t remember at all, but have since come to find that it’s kind of a big deal (to some people). I knew that Tim Curry was in it, but had no idea Tom Cruise was. I thought it might be kind of a funny movie, but when I saw Tom prancing around the forest or whatever I clicked this badboy off and deleted it from my queue. I am no fan of fantasy movies.
JOHNNY BE GOOD (1988)
I’m becoming a pretty big fan of Netflix’s recommendations. I started watching Johnny after digging License and wasn’t disappointed. It’s got an older and more confident Anthony Michael Hall and a completely goofy Robert Downey Jr.. There’s a good deal of goofiness to this movie, which focuses on Hall as a football star getting courted by and visiting different colleges that want him. Downey plays his wacky best friend, but what struck me about the movie is how real it can be at times. Hall and Downey sell their characters like they’re up for an award. Oh, it’s also got Uma Thurman as Hall’s girlfriend and Jennifer Tilly has a quick role. If you’re an 80s movie fan, or just curious to see what Downey might have been like back in the late 80s give Johnny a look.
AUGUST RUSH (2007)
Sometimes you’ve got to add a movie for your lady to the ol’ queue. I was pleasantly surprised with August Rush, not because the story is all the unique (you’ve seen the broad strokes before plenty of times), but because of it’s view of music. The way they show the young boy experiencing music in everyday life, what it means to him and how he’s eventually able to play it in his own unorthodox way really struck me. If you’ve got to watch a chick flick with your girl and you’re a music fan, this is a good choice. Also, Keri Russell is in it and looking good.
KING OF KONG (2007)
If you haven’t seen this documentary about the surprisingly competitive world of classic arcade high score competitions, please stop reading and watch it right now. This one makes it into my top 10 movies of 2007 (should a list ever actually exist). First off, it shows off a world I’ve never seen, which you know I love. Also, that world is full of deceit, greed, cowardice, heroics, villainy, triumph and defeat. The way the story is put together feels like a really well scripted feature film, though the events and the ups and downs are completely real. If you’ve ever liked anything I’ve written about on here, watch this movie.
Seeing as how The Death and Return of Superman is the story that got me collecting comics in the first place (and how deeply and utterly I bought into the idea that any of the four subsequent people could be the real Superman), I was very excited when I heard a few years ago that DC/WB was going to make an animated movie about that very event, I was psyched. I figured it probably wouldn’t have EVERYthing that made the comic so cool (Superman turning back to save a family instead of finishing Doomsday off, that very 90s JLA facing off against Doomsday, an eyes-swollen-shut Guy Gardner asking his teammate to aim his fist at Doomsday so he could blast it, not to mention the four other “Supermen”), but that it could offer up a cool new look on the idea. And it’s definitely a different look. I would have preferred them either go straight with the established look and continuity of the Bruce Timm/Paul Dini-verse or have a drastically different art direction on the project as little things like Superman’s cheek lines become distracting. I was also distracted by the different voices for these characters that I recognize from a specific other incarnation that looked very similar but sound completely different. Even at 77 minutes it felt kind of slow, but the fight scenes are pretty great (though they don’t hold a candle to JLU). I still hold on to my dream of one day seeing an epic, animated incarnation of the Death and Return of Superman though. A boy can dream, right?
Cannonball Run II (1984)
Starring Burt Reynolds, Dom DeLuise, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Jamie Farr, Marilu Henner, Telly Savalas, Shirley MacLaine, Jackie Chan, Tim Conway, Sid Caesar, Tony Danza, Richard Kiel, Don Knotts, Ricardo Montalban, Jim Nabors, Charles Nelson Reilly, Frank Sinatra, Joe Theismann and even Cheech Marin
Directed by Hal Needham
Written by Hal Needham, Albert S. Ruddy & Harvey Miller
Hey, remember how much I like Cannonball Run? Welllll, I can’t necessarily throw my hat in the ring completely for its sequel. First of all, everyone feels a lot older, even though this movie was only shot 3 years after the original. The element of fun and wackiness is still there, but it definitely seems watered down. But there are still great moments like the interactions between Jackie Chand and Richard Kiel (Jaws, to most folks). Also, you get to see Jaws fight Sid Caesar and Kojak’s Telly Savalas.
The basic plot is that Jaime Farr, who plays a shiek, has a dad (Roberto Mantalban) who’s disapointed that he lost the race from the first movie, so he encourages his son to hold a new race this year that he can win. All the usual faces show up to win the million bucks that’s up for grabs, but at some point Jaime Farr gets captured by some gangsters and the Cannonballers have to roll in and save the day, which brings about another great fight scene between a bunch of great actors and some stunt men. I think I could watch a 90 year old Dean Martin punch a dude and I wouldn’t get sick of it. That guy’s awesome.
Did I mention that Frank Sinatra’s in this bad boy? I read that he filmed all his scenes by himself and they used stand ins for some of the shots, but I like seeing him around too. Have you ever seen the original Ocean’s 11? You really should, those Rat Pack fellas sure knew how to have a good time. I also highly recommend listening to the Rat Pack Live at the Sands CD. You get a great idea of how well these guys really got along. But more on the Rat Pack at another date and time.
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this flick. It’s definitely not as good as the original, but it does still have a lot of fun elements that make it worth tossing up on your queue or renting sometime. Oh yeah, one more thing. I did a little math (which I hate doing) and came up with something a little weird. In the movie, the two main love interests for Burt and Dom and Merilu Henner and Shirley MacLaine who play dancers dressed as nuns. Well, like I said I did some math and Merilu would have been around 32 when she shot this movie, which isn’t a big deal, but Shirley was 50. And you know what? She didn’t look half bad. Just something to think about. Or not, whatever.